Americans few and far between in Somalia
Somalia is not a safe place to operate. A 9,700-strong African Union force tries to secure the area in and around the capital with its large incidences of car bombs and IED attacks.
January 25th, 2012
08:16 PM ET

Americans few and far between in Somalia

By Jill Dougherty

The American that U.S. special forces rescued from Somali kidnappers was one of an extremely small group of Americans inside Somalia.

The U.S. State Department and international aid organizations say it is difficult to pin down just how many Americans are in Somalia.

The department's Bureau of Consular Affairs told CNN that it cannot provide figures because it does not require Americans to register with local embassies.

Several aid organizations say the number of aid workers is low because of major security concerns in the country. One organization with which CNN spoke would not provide any information out of concern for the security for its staff on the ground.

There are serious dangers, aid workers say, from armed fighting, the terrorist group Al-Shabaab, pirates, criminals and a long history of kidnappings.

In addition, according to U.S. government officials, about 20 young Somali-American men have traveled to Somalia to train with and fight for Al-Shabaab.

One group whose senior representative just returned from Mogadishu this week, tells CNN that most organizations use local staff, and there appear to be very few white Americans, Europeans, etc., on the ground. An official from group, which requested CNN not use its name out of concern for safety of its employees in the country, gave a speech in Mogadishu, they say, and the Somali Disaster Management Association told him he was the first white person to speak publicly in Mogadishu in years.

That representative's guess is that in southern Somalia there could be 10 to 20 Americans confined primarily to the airport and that most who do come to Mogadishu come in and out and do not stay.

The organization has sponsored many Somali-American volunteers who serve in Somalia, and their estimate is that the number of Somali-Americans and Somali-Canadians in the country is much higher, about 200. Its own staff on the ground are led by a Somali-Canadian country director and all of their other expats are African (mainly Kenyan).

In the areas of Somaliland and Puntland, including where American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Thisted were captured, the number of Americans appears to be much higher, although Bronwyn Bruton, deputy director of the Atlantic Council's Africa Center, tells CNN that Puntland and Galkayo, the town where they were taken, are "on the border of what is considered safe."

Local criminals, she says, often believe that kidnapping an American will fetch a large ransom, perhaps $1 million. Some of the people kidnapped are sold to formal networks, and others are held by a single group. One factor that makes the situation particularly dangerous, Bruton says, is the widespread use of qat, a narcotic stimulant that is chewed. It can be very dangerous when armed men are jumpy.

Buchanan and Thisted were engaged in demining, primarily teaching locals how to defuse mines. Other activities aid workers participate in are education, conflict resolution and women's issues.

Piracy and kidnapping, she said, "are not a new problem, unfortunately, which is why we have to be vigilant and have to be prepared to do the kinds of operations like we saw last night."

soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Angie

    no common sense...none of these

    January 26, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Reply
  2. combat vet

    All people make a conscience decision to be good or bad, bad pays the cost good will always overcome evil

    January 26, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Reply
  3. john cougar mellencamp

    Boy everybody is falling for some ignorant 13 year olds rants about americans. CONSIDER THE SOURCE. Btw, most Indians households smell like curry and coriander. I knew zome somali-american truckdrivers who work hard at acheiving the american dream.. Something all of us try to do. This is why America is so great. The diversity of its citizens from all over the world. We get the best because of our democracy!!!

    January 26, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Reply
  4. Ellen Rengeress

    That's crazy but why are we wasting tax dollars saving those retards when everyone knows that Somalia is the most lawless and dangerous country especially mogodishu. These people clearly aren't very smart I mean logically next time maybe pick Tonga


    January 26, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Reply
  5. America

    Yo! America here. Hey, it's not my fault. It's my citizens'. You see what they've done? I'm sick, but the medicine they try giving me doesn't work, and they rarely do anything to try! And they keep yelling at me to get better, but how am I supposed to do that on my own? Hey, stupid citizens, I'm letting you live on my back here! The least you could do is take care of me in return...
    Sincerely, the United States of America.

    January 26, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Reply

    well ! is not a big deal what happen in somalia. if america realy think she can do any things to the out world,like what she is doing to arab world let it try in somalia.

    January 26, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Reply
    • bdougherty

      The US should leave Somalia completely and forever and let it devour itself.

      January 26, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Reply
  7. Howard Feinski

    Nothing new here, folks. Many engage in risky activities in faroff places. Should we rescue them when they get into trouble? The ages old question.
    When it's a black homeland and a gorgeous dame is involved, the answer is always – YES.

    January 26, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Reply
  8. theboss59

    I agree, when will we learn to mind our own business, let the people of these countries stand up and fight back.
    Whats the difference there dying anyway at least they can die trying to do some good, the problem is the same
    problem we have here in America, some groups THINK there owed some thing and act like animals to get what
    they think there owed. Its time America takes care of our country and clean out the animals here before we try
    to tell another country what they need to do.......................................................................

    January 26, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Reply
    • Kittyg


      January 26, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Reply
  9. Mickey Mouse

    I can't understand why Libertarians from the U.S. are not moving to Somalia in droves, it's a paradise according to their rhetoric- no taxes, no regulations, no "big gubmint" telling them what to market enterprise at it's finest!

    January 26, 2012 at 11:52 am | Reply
    • JuneCleaversBeaver

      Did your mother have ANY children that weren't born re t-arded? I bet your vote for Obama's re election costs them exactly one sandwich and one gift card.

      January 26, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Reply
    • sadie

      I guess JuneCleaversBeaver does not appreciate your humor. As soon as the word 'rxtxrd' is used, you just KNOW they ain't got nothing better to say.

      January 26, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Reply
    • JonC

      News flash. Somalia is governed by Shariah law. Why in the hell would libertarians (who adopt the mantra of "do no harm" and are advocates of personal freedom/responsibility) want to live in a country where a theopolitical, Islamic, totalitarian system suffocates any form of free thought and liberty? This is about the furthest thing from libertarianism as possible. Mayhap, you need to educate yourself.

      November 1, 2013 at 11:25 am | Reply
  10. JB

    Not that the US Special Forces should not be confused with the Obama Rump Rangers.

    January 26, 2012 at 11:48 am | Reply
  11. Joel

    I think in central MN we have more Somalians Than they do in there own country. We need to send them all back to help .

    January 26, 2012 at 11:08 am | Reply
    • EnoughZnough

      Not just the Somalians..

      January 26, 2012 at 11:24 am | Reply
  12. Kay

    Indiarocks-You're just jealous because you're not white like me.

    January 26, 2012 at 10:54 am | Reply
    • Reason Prevails

      People like you shame this great nation.

      January 26, 2012 at 11:15 am | Reply
  13. IndiaRocks

    Americans are obnoxious, uncultured, perverted b@st@rds who are hated all around the world. They should go back home.

    January 26, 2012 at 10:29 am | Reply
    • johnharry

      yeah were so bad, we should stop employing indians. remove all our call centers. india with is average pay rate of 2 dollars a day.

      January 26, 2012 at 10:38 am | Reply
      • ranger 830

        Would you like special my friend? two for one berry good deal for you!!!!! My friend that gets me all the time!!!!!! hee heee!!!!

        January 29, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • jim

      That's just what I was thinking about Indians. The problem is, most Indians don't want to go back to that pigsty once they have lived with indoor plumbing.

      January 26, 2012 at 11:17 am | Reply
    • EnoughZnough

      LOL, "uncultured" really? The reason we are "hated all around the world" so much is jealousy. Too bad for you and your poor country with no birth control huh? Besides, I see “Indians” every day and they are just as pompous as anyone else! So keep you self-righteous, BO ridden mouth shut!

      January 26, 2012 at 11:22 am | Reply
    • Rick Right

      Unlike you people, who practice twice the murdering and half the bathing

      January 26, 2012 at 11:37 am | Reply
    • ForReal

      For real, most Indians stink. I lived next to some one year in college and when they would open their door it was god awful.

      January 26, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Reply
    • bdougherty

      especially the Indian-Americans!

      January 26, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Reply
  14. EnoughZnough

    No different than going to an all-black place here in the US..

    January 26, 2012 at 10:23 am | Reply
    • labandme

      Yep! They seem to have a problem running anything without disfunction, drugs and violence. Of course it's everyone elses fault.

      January 26, 2012 at 10:56 am | Reply
      • Kittyg


        January 26, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  15. Hmmm

    I have an idea. Dont go these Western hating, backward countrys. If they dont want us there, let them deal with it on there own.

    January 26, 2012 at 10:02 am | Reply
    • Sean

      I agree completely.

      January 26, 2012 at 10:54 am | Reply
    • Carlin123

      That makes too much sense, instead I'm sure America will start trying to police this area with our military costing us billions of dollars and who knows how many lives.

      January 26, 2012 at 11:01 am | Reply
    • bdougherty

      and a nice carpet bombing wouldn't hurt

      January 26, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Reply

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